CHAPTER 4 | FIRST TO DO IN GERMANY, COSTS, FAMILY REUNIFICATION
Detailed examination of the works to be done right after coming to Germany, the costs related to these works, and family reunification
(This article was originally written in Turkish on November 24th, 2019 and updated before publishing in English.)
In the 4th part of our “Life in Germany” blog series, we will talk about what you need to do as soon as you arrive and your possible expenses related to these processes if you have settled in Germany to live for a long time. After that, I will explain in detail about “family reunification”, which is one of the most curious topics.
After various bureaucratic procedures and stressful waiting periods, you finally came to Germany, and you feel like a great burden removed from you. The truth is, yes, the load has been removed. But after you arrive, a very complicated bureaucracy marathon awaits you. The first thing you need to do is going directly to a “Meldebehörde”, that is, the administrative office authorized to register your residence. These administrative offices are located in the municipalities to which your address of residence is affiliated and can also be referred to as “Einwohnermeldeamt”, “Bürgeramt” or “Bürgerbüro”. Let me give these names as additional information that you not be confused. All are the same.
You must register your residence within 14 days at the latest. This process is free. You may be staying in a temporary place, that’s okay. After moving to your permanent residence, you can make a “Ummeldung”, ie, registration change. The important thing is to register your residency as quickly as possible. Because, as soon as you arrive in Germany, every step you take in all the processes you need to handle depends on this residence registration. Residence permit application, getting your personal tax number, opening a bank account, starting your health insurance, etc. None of these happens without your registration of residence. Besides, passing this 14-day period may negatively affect in terms of the result of your residence permit application. Let me also mention that without forgetting, even if the address is temporary, you must register the address of the place where you sleep at night. If you do not stay overnight, do not register your work address as your residential address.
Documents required for registration are as follows:
1. Your passport.
2. “Anmeldung” ie registration application form (the office provides this form when you go to registration).
3. “Einzugsbestätigung” or “Wohnungsgeberbestätigung”, that is, a document that you must have the owner of the property you reside signing, confirming your residence at that address (You can also obtain this form in advance from the relevant office or download it online).
Immediately after registering your residence, you should share this information with the consulate of your home country in your region. This issue is essential for reasons such as being able to register the voter, being able to reach you in case of emergency and to register your residence in Germany by the homeland authorities. To do this, you need to make an appointment with the consulate, and you can do this online. Having the appointment early in the morning will make your job easier in every respect. An application form you will fill in there, your residence registration and your passport are enough for this process.
Within one week after making your residence registration, your personal “Steueridentifikationsnummer”, ie, your personal tax number, will also be sent to your address by mail. Your personal tax number will be sent to you by the “Bundeszentralamt für Steuern”, ie, the Federal Central Tax Office, and it is required for almost all bureaucratic processes involving money. Do not forget to declare your personal tax number to the workplace as soon as you receive it.
There are dozens of different insurance companies you can choose from for statutory health insurance. These companies do not differ in terms of function, but each of them may have various services and privileges. You pay half of the insurance premium from your gross salary, and your employer pays the other half. I have been insured by the AOK insurance company for years and have never had any complaints so far. They have even paid for many small treatments that could be considered as luxury, which I say “they probably won’t pay for it.”
If you wish, you can examine the services of the major insurance companies before registration and make your decision accordingly. For registration application, your proof of income, a passport photo, and an application form are sufficient. Your insurance starts as soon as you register, it takes about two weeks to receive your insurance card, and it will arrive at your registered address by post. You must carry this card with you at all times.
We will mention the statutory health insurance title again in the sixth chapter, where we will discuss the health system in Germany in detail.
Briefly about opening a bank account in Germany…
Apart from a few new trendy branchless banking systems, if you want to open an account from major banks, you must pay a monthly account maintenance fee. These fees range from 3 to 12 Euros per month. My bank account is at Deutsche Bank, and I pay a monthly fee of 5.90 Euros. Do not try to open your account online without going to the bank. Some banks provide this service, but at the last step, they ask you to come to the bank to get signatures and some approvals from you. The fastest and the healthiest way is to collect the documents they want, make your appointment and go to the bank. Account opening processes take around 30–40 minutes.
One of the urgent things to do is to have a telephone line. There are three major operators in Germany. Vodafone, O2, and Telekom. Other lines other than these are the second class but more economical lines using the networks of these big companies. It is not a method that I would highly recommend for those who will stay in Germany for a long time. I have been using Vodafone for about 15 years. I get so angry sometimes but, it is still the best in my opinion when it comes to coverage and services. I think Telekom is a bit weak in mobile. At least that’s how I hear from my surroundings. Frankly, I have never come across an acquaintance who says, “I use Telekom on a mobile phone, and I am extremely satisfied.” The comments I hear about O2 are not bad.
A postpaid line can be considered more affordable in the long run. If you do not use your phone infrequently and plan to stay in Germany for more than a year, I can recommend you to buy a postpaid line. In every company, there is a plan for every budget or using style, just as there is in almost all countries. If you do not say that, “the monthly amount I will pay for a new phone has to be included in the contract”, that is, if you are going to make a contract for internet and phone calls only, you will have an internet quota of 20–25 GB per month and a line where you can make unlimited phone calls to all German lines, which you can get by paying an amount between 25 to 35 Euros a month. In all European Union member countries, you can use your internet quota and minutes just as if you were in Germany. This is a legal right that has been granted to all users over the past few years. There are, of course, cheaper or more expensive tariffs than this. I just made an average calculation.
Finally, you now need to start the process to convert your temporary visa to a residence permit. For this, you need to make an appointment with the “Ausländeramt”, that is foreigners branch, to which you are affiliated. It makes the most sense to arrange this appointment as soon as you come to Germany because the appointments can usually be given for 30–40 days later. The documents you provide during the visa application while in your home country will reach Germany during this time. And in the meantime, you may also have taken care of the processes you need to handle. So timing is important.
You can get the appointment online from the website of the relevant foreigners branch. The application form, your passport, a biometric photo, and a printout of your online appointment are basically the requested documents. Apart from these, all documents that can be requested may vary depending on your personal situation and the reason you are in Germany. You may also be asked for your residence registration, health insurance, student certificate or employment contract, documents showing what you are providing for your livelihood, etc. But the best thing would be to contact your office to find out exactly what documents they will ask for. Fees to be paid for these processes may vary depending on the nature of your residence permit and some other parameters. Therefore, it would not be right to say: “you pay exactly this amount for these transactions”. It would be better to find out also the fees directly from the foreigners branch you are affiliated with. Do not neglect to take cash with you, just in case.
As you may have noticed from all of these things, traditional mail is still very important and works very well in Germany. Domestic posts “usually” arrive at their intended destination in one business day. Many correspondence and transactions are handled by mail. So don’t forget to stick a label with your “last name” on your mailbox. In Germany, expressions such as flat number, floor, opposite of such shop are not used in correspondence addresses. Just the street name and the building number. If you live in an apartment building, when the postman arrives, he will know your mailbox by your last name and leave your mail. Please do not skip this topic.
After finishing what needs to be done as soon as we come to Germany, let’s finish this part with the subject of family reunification.
I want to tell about this issue in all its lines. In other words, not only based on the family member who came to Germany to bring their spouse and children to Germany after their arrival. In general, I will try to share information that may be necessary for anyone with a spouse, child, or parents in Germany.
If you will apply for a residence permit in Germany by referring to your spouse, parent, or child living in Germany, you must first apply for a family reunification visa by providing the relevant documents.
Your spouse can be a German citizen or have an official residence permit in Germany. Likewise, your child or your parents may also be German citizens or live in Germany with an official residence permit.
These features give you the right to request a family reunification visa to apply for a residence permit in Germany.
Although there are some exceptions that we will elaborate on in a moment, if you are eligible to apply for this visa, there is a requirement to learn German at the A1 level before applying. Parallel to this, this visa gives you the right to attend integration courses after your settlement in Germany. The spouses who come to Germany within the scope of this visa can both improve their German and have practical knowledge about German culture and daily life. Thanks to these courses, it is even possible to advance up to the B1 level in German.
As for the documents that must be provided prior to the visa application: Apart from the typical, basic documents required for any visa application, an International Marriage Registration Sample is required to apply for a family reunification visa for spouses, including the identification information of both spouses. Please do not confuse this with a marriage certificate. The marriage certificate is issued based on the CIEC Agreement signed in 1974, but Germany is not a party to this agreement. Germany is a member of the CIEC, namely the International Commission on Civil Status, but has no signature in this agreement. Therefore, the marriage certificate is not considered valid during this visa application and an International Marriage Registration Copy is required. You can also obtain this document from your civil registry office.
Besides, the residence permit of the spouse living in Germany will be required. In addition to that, if the spouse living in Germany is a German citizen, a copy of her/his passport or identity card and birth certificate, if the spouse living in Germany is not a German citizen, a copy of the passport and a copy of the residence permit are also required.
The applicant, ie, spouses who will go from homeland to Germany, should know German at least at A1 level. There are a few exceptions to this. For example, being unable to receive basic German language training due to a physical, or mental illness such as disability. Or, despite having studied German for a year, and despite the serious effort, failing the exams and not getting the language certificate can be counted among these exceptions.
If you are going to apply for family reunification through your child living in Germany, here is the list of the additional documents you need to provide.
German birth registration copy, if the child was born in Germany.
If the child was not born in Germany, an international birth registration copy with the father registered.
German ID or passport of the child.
A current residence document of the child.
German ID or residence permit of the parent living in Germany.
These are the documents required in addition to the typical documents requested in each visa, and I find it useful to remind this again.
Finally, let’s take a look at the different documents required for family reunification through parents living in Germany.
Current residence document of the parent living in Germany. International marriage registration copy of the parents if the applicant was born in wedlock.
If the applicant was born out of wedlock, acknowledgment of paternity and custody statement.
If the parents are divorced, the court order regarding the divorce, or custody.
In this article, I tried to give a detailed account of the first processes you need to deal with when you come to Germany for settlement purposes, the possible costs that may arise concerning these, and family reunification issues.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please write to us. Let me share our contact information again on this occasion:
To contact us, you can send an e-mail to email@example.com
In the next chapter, we will cover house rents in Germany and salaries by state and profession.
Please take care to share these blog posts with your relatives who you think may need them. The more people we can reach who need this information, the more beneficial we will do.
Thank you for reading.
Take care of yourself.